Tag Archives: Middle East

Veterans Speak Out On War Cost Amid Middle East Tension

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Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division board a bus to be taken to a flight line as they deploy to Middle East on Saturday January 4th 2020 at Ft. Bragg N.C. Malissa Sue Gerrits The Fayetteville Observer via A.P.

USA TODAY

Some say it’s time for Americans to cut our losses and bring U.S. troops home. Others say we need to keep our armed forces in place if it prevents another 9/11.

One message is clear: “Wars cost.”

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“The images are horrific. His left eyeball seemed to float in the bloody, mangled mass that used to be his face.

A bomb tore through the front of U.S. Army sniper Robert Bartlett’s head as he rode in a Humvee in Iraq in 2005. The device was traced to the Iranian Quds Force led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

So when President Donald Trump ordered the killing of the general last week, it wasn’t exactly an unwelcome development for Bartlett. 

Bartlett, who’s now a motivational speaker and veterans’ advocate, and other veterans who have served in the Middle East agree on that much. They differ on what should happen next.

Army Sgt. Robert Bartlett was disfigured during deployment in Iraq in 2005.
Army Sargent Robert Bartlett was disfigured during deployment to Iraq in 2005 American Society of Plastic Surgeons

But their years patrolling in Humvees, enduring stinging sandstorms and dealing with extreme temperatures have given them important perspective as the nation – again – focuses its attention on conflict in the Middle East.

Some say the face-off with Iran, which retaliated with a missile strike on Iraq bases Tuesday night, has reminded the American public of the uncertainty service members and their families have faced for nearly two decades since the U.S. military first invaded Afghanistan.

Some say it’s time for Americans to cut our losses and bring U.S. troops home. Others say we need to keep our armed forces in place if it prevents another 9/11.

One message is clear: “Wars cost,” said Sherman Gillums Jr., a Marine veteran who was paralyzed as he prepared to ship out to Afghanistan in 2002. 

“If you want it or believe it’s necessary but can’t fight it yourself, at least be prepared to pay in some other way,” Gillums said. 

He is now chief strategy officer at American Veterans, or AMVETS, a nonprofit veterans’ advocacy organization with more than 250,000 members.

Make no mistake, Bartlett said: The United States is at war with Iran. 

“We can keep lying to ourselves and say, ‘Hey, we’re not at war with them, we don’t want to be at war with them,’” he said. “Well, they’re at war with us, so you are at war with them.” 

Ending the ‘forever war’

Americans may have pushed Iraq to the back of their minds as American forces there dwindled and Trump declared ISIS had been defeated. But veterans interviewed by USA TODAY said the recent hostilities with Iran are an escalation of a conflict that has been going on for years.

In 2001, when U.S. forces prepared to take a crucial airport in Afghanistan during the initial U.S. invasion, one of the first things they did was destroy the runways, said Joe Chenelly, a Marine veteran who took part. “So that the Iranians could stop bringing stuff in to them,” he said.

That’s why Bartlett reacted to Soleimani’s death the way he did.

“I just got overcome with emotion,” he said. “Reluctantly, I prayed for his soul and the others who were killed. … Then I went and celebrated with a 12-year-old Scotch and a cigar.”

Chenelly, who is now national executive director of AMVETS, said the organization has been in favor of ending the “forever war” for years. What happened in the past week, however, “obviously complicates things.”

Now, he said, the most important consideration should be ensuring the security of U.S. forces and the nation. But today’s highly charged political environment makes it hard, he said, for Americans to talk about how to achieve that. 

“It’s hard to talk about this and not be labeled as taking one side or the other – the political side, which really isn’t fair when we’re talking about life and death,” Chenelly said. “It’s a lot deeper than Rs versus Ds or vice versa.”

National Executive Director of AMVETS Joe Chenelly poses for a photograph Thursday, March 29, 2018, in Washington.
National Executive Director of AMVETS, Joe Chennelly Alex Brandon AP

Navy veteran Jeremy Butler said images of troops being deployed to the Middle East recently have returned to the national spotlight the realities of military life: “what it’s like to be on call, what it’s like to have family members quickly deployed, what it’s like to have the uncertainty of not knowing when you’re going to see your spouse or your parents again.”

Butler deployed in 2003 in support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and is now chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which advocates for post-9/11 veterans. 

In addition to the 5,000 U.S. troops killed in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 50,000 have been wounded. Years later, those veterans require care by their families and American taxpayers.

Some veterans question what the U.S. is fighting for

Iraq combat veteran Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said what’s missing from the national conversation about recent hostilities with Iranis a strategy.

Rieckhoff, who unabashedly refers to Trump as “President Mayhem” on his podcast, said the White House and Pentagon need to articulate a clear strategy for the region beyond economic sanctions meant to pressure Iran into dropping its nuclear ambitions.

Trump on Wednesday pledged to impose more of those sanctions in response to Iran’s missile strikes. 0:151:20

Rieckhoff called Trump’s remarks nebulous. “Felt all over the place,” he tweeted. 

Trump’s address signaled a de-escalation from his earlier rhetoric, in which he pledged to strike Iranian cultural sites “VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if Iran retaliated for Soleimani’s killing. 

Veteran Army Special Forces officer Joe Kent wants the president to go further and pull U.S. troops out of Iraq – and away from Iran. That’s what Trump campaigned on.

“I would get all of our forces out of … striking distance,” he said. Kent deployed several times to Iraq. His wife was killed in Syria last year during her fifth combat deployment.

“If we do decide to stay in Iraq, either against the will of the Iraqi parliament or at the blessing of the Iraqi government, the question is, what are we fighting for?” he asked. “Are we fighting for the Iraqi government?”

Sherman Gillums Jr., chief strategy officer at American Veterans, or AMVETS, speaks during the 3rd Annual Vetty Awards at The Mayflower Hotel on Jan. 20, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Sherman Gillums, Jr., Chief Strategy Officer AMVETS Paul Morigi Getty Images

Marine veteran Dan Caldwell agrees. He said keeping troops in Iraq is “insane.” Caldwell is senior adviser to Concerned Veterans for America, a Koch-backed group that has supported Trump.

U.S. missions to eradicate ISIS and train and equip Iraqi forces are now complete, Caldwell said.

“The only mission our troops have in Iraq is guarding bases that no longer serve a purpose,” he said. “There’s no pressing national security need to have them there.” 

Middle East experts have said a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq could be disastrous, creating a power vacuum for both Iran and the Islamic State terrorist group to fill. 

And Bartlett, who was disfigured by the Iranian-made bomb in 2005, warned against such sweeping judgments without knowing what intelligence is guiding U.S. leaders’ decision-making.

The lessons of 9/11 are worth remembering, Bartlett said: A small group of terrorists can kill thousands of people. “So we’ve got to keep that in mind. When we don’t deal with it, then we lose a lot of civilians.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/01/09/wars-cost-iraq-veterans-speak-out-amid-u-s-tensions-iran/2831788001/


Why U.S. Soldiers Battled Their Own Paid Security Detail

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Image: SkyAustraliaHealth

USA TODAY

The architects behind this corner of the war – and those profiting from the security contract – did not understand the difference between who they were supposed to be fighting, employing and protecting.

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“ZIZABAD, Afghanistan – Once the Americans left, the survivors started digging.

There were too many dead and not enough shovels, so a local politician brought in heavy machinery from a nearby construction site. He dug graves deep enough to fit mothers with children, or children with children. Some were still in their pajamas, their hands inked with henna tattoos from the party preparations the night before.

Villagers picked through the rubble of what had been an entire neighborhood, looking for remains to wrap in white linens for burial. A boy clutching a torn rug walked in a daze on top of the ruins. A young man collapsed in grief by a pile of mud bricks where his home once stood – where his wife and four children had been sleeping inside.

The local doctor recorded a cellphone video to document the dead faces, freckled with shrapnel and blood, coated with dust and debris. Some were Afghan men of fighting age, but most – dozens of them – were women and children. Taza was 3 years old. Maida was 2. Zia, 1.

The hot summer wind kicked up dust, smoke and the smell of gunpowder as villagers tried to make sense of why their remote village was demolished by an American airstrike in the middle of the night.

A clue was found near several of the dead Afghan fighters: ID badges from the private security company at the American-controlled airfield up the road.

Why had a team of U.S. soldiers and Marines battled its own paid security detail?

After more than a decade, those who buried their families still don’t know.


U.S. military officials publicly touted the August 22, 2008, Azizabad raid – Operation Commando Riot – as a victory. A high-value Taliban target had been killed; the collateral damage was minimal; the village was grateful.

None of it was true.

The Taliban commander escaped. Dozens of civilians were dead in the rubble, including as many as 60 children. The local population rioted.

It remains one of the deadliest civilian casualty events of the Afghan campaign. But the story of how the operation turned tragic has been largely hidden from the public.

USA TODAY spent more than a year investigating the Azizabad raid and sued the Department of Defense to obtain almost 1,000 pages of investigative files previously kept secret because it had been deemed “classified national security information.” The records included photographs of the destruction in Azizabad and sworn testimony from the U.S. forces who planned and executed the operation.SHOW OF FORCEThis is an ongoing series of reports about G4S, the world’s largest private security force, which provides guards for thousands of private businesses and government agencies across the nation. Reporters at USA TODAY and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spent more than a year gathering records and interviewing current and former employees, as well as those impacted by violence associated with G4S guards.

USA TODAY also obtained Afghan government records, evidence collected by humanitarian groups, including the Red Cross, and a confidential United Nations investigation into the incident.

In addition, a reporter traveled to western Afghanistan to interview government officials, investigators, first responders, witnesses and the villagers who survived.

Together, the records and interviews tell the story of a disaster that was months in the making as military and company officials ignored warnings about the men they had hired to provide intelligence and security. The records also reveal that the Defense Department has for years downplayed or denied the fatal mistakes surrounding the tragedy.”

Read full story here: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2019/12/29/security-guards-afghan-warlords-mass-civilian-casualties/2675795001/

War Weary-Disinterested America And Its Soldiers

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Image: “Oocities.com”

Editors Note: Published 5 years ago this article is still basically true in 2020 –  Veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate say the American military cannot fix what is a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders.

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“ROSE COVERED GLASSES”

“As the U.S. continues into a second decade of the war on terror, our citizens and our volunteer military are growing disinterested and weary respectively. 

The Military Industrial Complex (MIC) continues to make grand strides in technology, spending billions on new air craft and naval vessels, cyber warfare tools and sensors, while we downsize the combat soldiers to stand in the job line or wait for admission to veterans’ hospitals. 
CRITERIA FOR WINNING
“THE ATLANTIC”
“Although no one can agree on an exact figure, our dozen years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries have cost at least $1.5 trillion.

Yet from a strategic perspective, to say nothing of the human cost, most of these dollars might as well have been burned. “At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.”

In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world.

When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.”

The Tragedy of the American Military 

RISK ASSESSMENT

Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice.

“POGO”

“Cost-plus contracts have long been criticized by government watchdogs like the Project On Government Oversight and waste-conscious lawmakers. Most recently, incoming Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) bluntly stated that these contracts are “disgraceful” and should be banned.”
  
Your Tax Dollars Defrauded

 THOSE WHO HAVE FOUGHT ASK GOOD QUESTIONS

‘NEW YORK TIMES”

“There are 26 veterans from the United States’ two most recent wars serving in the House and Senate.

Many say their experience in Iraq and Afghanistan taught them that the American military cannot fix what is fundamentally a cultural and political issue: the inability of governments to thwart extremism within their own borders.

Ted Lieu of California, said he would not support giving Mr. Obama the formal authority he had requested because, like many veterans, he finds it difficult to see how the conflict will ever end.

“The American military is an amazing force. We are very good at defeating the enemy, taking over territory, blowing things up,” said Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force and remains in the Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel. “But America has traditionally been very bad at answering the next question, which is what do you do after that.”

Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now serving in Congress have emerged as some of the most important voices in the debate over whether to give President Obama a broad authorization for a military campaign against the Islamic State or something much more limiting.”
Veterans in Congress Bring Rare Perspective
NO SKIN IN THE GAME
“THE ATLANTIC”
“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it,” Andrew Bacevich wrote in 2012. Bacevich himself fought in Vietnam; his son was killed in Iraq. “Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”
 The Tragedy of the American Military
BUYING OUR WAY OUT?

Foreign aid in the billions continues to the Middle East.  US weapons export sales have reached a crescendo, increasing by 31% to 94 countries. with the Middle East receiving the line share.
US Arms Exports Increase 31%
A single Weapon, the 1.4 Trillion dollar F-35 will soon account for 12% of our total national debt.
The 1.4 $Trillion F-35 Aircraft
QUOTE BY ERIC PRINCE, EX- CEO BLACKWATER:
“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”
“The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state.” 
At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said. 
“The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint.” Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. 
Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.”
What’s Eric Prince Been Up To?
QUESTIONS FOR THE READER:

Did not the Roman Empire run into these issues when they outsourced their wars and went to the baths?

What makes us believe this worldwide war of attrition can continue indefinitely and that our younger generations are going to be willing to enlist and/or pay the bills?

Image: Photolibra

 Can we insist our government representatives consider these factors and plan ahead?

Future generations, their wealth, health and treasure will depend on our answers.

https://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2015/03/war-weary-disinterested-america-its.html

Post 9/11 Wars Have Cost American Taxpayers $6.4 Trillion, Study Finds

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(Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc)

STARS AND STRIPES

“American taxpayers have spent some $6.4 trillion in nearly two decades of post-9/11 wars, which have killed some 800,000 people worldwide, the Cost of Wars Project announced Wednesday.

The numbers reflect the toll of American combat and other military operations across some 80 nations since al-Qaida operatives attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington in 2001″

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“The annual spending estimates released Wednesday show a general decline in war costs in 2019 as U.S. troops face less combat in major war zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Still, the estimated price tag for those wars increased some $500 billion since November 2018, and it has doubled since the Cost of Wars Project — a product of Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs and Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee Center — first looked at cumulative wartime costs in 2011.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the workers involved in the project — some 35 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners and physicians.

“The budget of the Pentagon is difficult to weed through is an understatement,” Reed said. “My hope is that this report will continue to inform, educate and serve as a resource as we consider these wars going forward … to give us a better sense of the costs of wars not in a snapshot, but the long-term costs. This should be for us [in Congress] a guide to our policies, our procedures and actions going forward.”

The actual monetary and human costs of these wars is difficult to discern, said Neta Crawford, the report’s author and a Boston University political science professor, who blasted the lack of budget transparency of federal institutions including the Pentagon and departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

In recent years, Crawford asserted those institutions have made accessing information on how they spend taxpayer dollars more difficult, including where money is being spent overseas because items that were once reported are now “disappearing from the budget.”

She argued Wednesday that without proper accounting, the American public cannot shape informed opinions on the courses of these wars, which are generally viewed as “winding down” but continue to cost thousands of lives in 2019.

The Pentagon’s share of the spending includes the nearly $2 trillion since 2001 in overseas contingency operations funds — the wartime spending coffers used to fund most operations in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Defense Department has added more than $900 billion to its base budgets since those operations began, which it likely would not have needed in peacetime, Crawford said.

But the project’s cost estimates consider not only Pentagon wartime spending, but also about $1 trillion in spending on homeland anti-terrorism measures, $131 billion for State Department wartime spending, $437 billion for veterans care through fiscal year 2020 and $925 billion of interest payments that the United States will pay on money borrowed to fund those operations. It also includes a projected price tag of more than $1 trillion in future spending on medical care through fiscal year 2059 for the men and women who have fought these wars, which is anticipated to grow further, even if the wars were to end in the next year.

“That’s a very rough estimate,” Crawford said. “I think it’s low balling, honestly.”

The costs of America’s post-9/11 wars include not only money but the loss of lives, which the report estimated to have exceeded 800,000 people. That tally includes combatants and noncombatants in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

The report outlines the toll on Americans. Since operations were launched in Afghanistan in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, 7,014 U.S. service members have died in American wars, 22 Pentagon civilians have been killed, and 7,950 U.S. contractors have died.

Other deaths include more than 12,000 deaths among U.S. allied troops, 173,000 deaths in the ranks of national military and police forces, nearly 300,000 enemy fighters killed and more than 310,000 civilian deaths.

Those tallies remain largely incomplete, Crawford said, estimating civilians deaths in war zones where Americans have operated could be twice those reported, but were impossible to verify.

She urged better transparency from the Pentagon — and other federal institutions — on budget decisions and ongoing operations in the wars.

“There’s a lot of blood and treasure spent, but we’re not sure if [the wars] are successful,” Crawford said, highlighting recent Pentagon estimates of number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan that show similar strength as it held in 2001 and estimates of Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria that show the group might still boast 35,000 to 100,000 fighters following its loss of territory earlier this year.

“So how successful is the strategy and how successful could it be?” she asked. “… We can’t assess in some instances what those answers are.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/post-9-11-wars-have-cost-american-taxpayers-6-4-trillion-study-finds-1.607157

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Military Victory is Dead

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war-is-dead

“MODERN WAR INSTITUTE AT WEST POINT”

“Victory’s been defeated; it’s time we recognized that and moved on to what we actually can accomplish.

We’ve reached the end of victory’s road, and at this juncture it’s time to embrace other terms, a less-loaded lexicon, like “strategic advantage,” “relative gain,” and “sustainable marginalization.”

A few weeks back, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Harvard Professor Steven Pinker triumphantly announced the peace deal between the government of Columbia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC). While positive, this declaration rings hollow as the exception that proves the rule – a tentative treaty, however, at the end, roughly 7,000 guerrillas held a country of 50 million hostage over 50 years at a cost of some 220,000 lives. Churchill would be aghast: Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

One reason this occasion merited a more somber statement: military victory is dead. And it was killed by a bunch of cheap stuff.

The term “victory” is loaded, so let’s stipulate it means unambiguous, unchallenged, and unquestioned strategic success – something more than a “win,” because, while one might “eke out a win,” no one “ekes out a victory.” Wins are represented by a mere letter (“w”); victory is a tickertape with tanks.

Which is something I’ll never see in my military career; I should explain. When a government has a political goal that cannot be obtained other than by force, the military gets involved and selects some objective designed to obtain said goal. Those military objectives can be classified broadly, as Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz did, into either a limited aim (i.e. “occupy some…frontier-districts” to use “for bargaining”), or a larger aim to completely disarm the enemy, “render[ing] him politically helpless or military impotent.” Lo, we’ve arrived at the problem: War has become so inexpensive that anyone can afford the traditional military means of strategic significance – so we can never fully disarm the enemy. And a perpetually armed enemy means no more parades (particularly in Nice).

Never in the history of human conflict were so many so threatened by so few.

It’s a buyer’s market in war, and the baseline capabilities (shoot, move, and communicate) are at snake-belly prices. Tactical weaponry, like AK-47s are plentiful, rented, and shipped from battlefield to battlefield, and the most lethal weapon U.S. forces encountered at the height of the Iraq War, the improvised explosive device, could be had for as little as $265. Moving is cost-effective too in the “pickup truck era of warfare,” and reports on foreign fighters in Syria remind us that cheap, global travel makes it possible for nearly anyone on the planet to rapidly arrive in an active war zone with money to spare. Also, while the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba shut down the megacity Mumbai in 2008 for less than what many traveling youth soccer teams spend in a season, using unprotected social media networks, communication has gotten even easier for the emerging warrior with today’s widely available unhackable phones and apps. These low and no-cost commo systems are the glue that binds single wolves into coordinated wolf-packs with guns, exponentially greater than the sum of their parts. The good news: Ukraine can crowdfund aerial surveillance against Russian incursions. The less-good news: strikes, like 9/11, cost less than three seconds of a single Super Bowl ad. With prices so low, why would anyone ever give up their fire, maneuver, and control platforms?

All of which explains why military victory has gone away. Consider the Middle East, and the recent comment by a Hezbollah leader, “This can go on for a hundred years,” and his comrade’s complementary analysis, that “as long as we are there, nobody will win.” With such a modestly priced war stock on offer, it’s no wonder Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees with the insurgents, recently concluding, of the four wars currently burning across the region, the U.S. has “no prospect” of strategic victory in any. Or that Modern War Institute scholar Andrew Bacevich assesses bluntly, “If winning implies achieving stated political objectives, U.S. forces don’t win.” This is what happens when David’s slingshot is always full.

The guerrillas know what many don’t: It’s the era, stupid. This is the nature of the age, as Joshua Cooper Ramos describes, “a nightmare reality in which we must fight adaptive microthreats and ideas, both of which appear to be impossible to destroy even with the most expensive weapons.” Largely correct, one point merits minor amendment – it’s meaningless to destroy when it’s so cheap to get back in the game, a hallmark of a time in which Wolverine-like regeneration is regular.

This theme even extends to more civilized conflicts. Take the Gawker case: begrudged hedge fund giant Peter Thiel funded former wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against the journalistic insurrectionists at Gawker Media, which forced the website’s writers to lay down their keyboards. However, as author Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out – Gawker’s leader, Nick Denton, can literally walk across the street, with a few dollars, and start right over. Another journalist opined, “Mr. Thiel’s victory was a hollow one – you might even say he lost. While he may have killed Gawker, its sensibility and influence on the rest of the news business survive.” Perhaps Thiel should have waited 50 more years, as Columbia had to, to write his “victory” op-ed? He may come to regret the essay as his own “Mission Accomplished” moment.

True with websites, so it goes with warfare. We live in the cheap war era, where the attacker has the advantage and the violent veto is always possible. Political leaders can speak and say tough stuff, promise ruthless revenge – it doesn’t matter, ultimately, because if you can’t disarm the enemy, you can’t parade the tanks.”

Military Victory is Dead

 

UNITED STATES WARFARE REALITIES TODAY

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warfare realities

“ROSE COVERED GLASSES” By Ken Larson  – 2 Tour Vietnam Veteran and Retired Aerospace Contracts Manager

In the last 17 years the U.S. has reacted to the 911 tragedy by creating a behemoth machine that cannot and will not continue. 

It Knows Only Killing – Has Little Understanding of Foreign Cultural Factors – Spawns New Versions of Our Old Enemies – Creates a Dangerous Outgrowth of Technology Exporting It for Profit and Defies Financial Control 



Knows Only Killing 

 

This outrageous explosion of watch listing—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers…  assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source of the documents told the Intercept. “We’re allowing this to happen. And by ‘we,’ I mean every American citizen who has access to this information now, but continues to do nothing about it.”
She Kills People From 7,850 Miles Away

Has Little Understanding of Foreign Cultural Factors in Nation Building

Our government has not considered the risks, the indigenous cultural impact, the expense and the sacrifices required to sustain the nation building that must occur after we invade countries in pursuit of perceived enemies and place the burden of governance on military personnel who are not equipped to deal with it or manage USAID contractors who have profit motives in mind and corruption as a regular practice.
Risks, Expenses and Sacrifices in Nation Building

Spawns New Versions of Our Old Enemies 



An observer of our military actions over the last two decades in the Middle East could in no way have predicted the splintered, irrational, “Turn-Your-Back-And-You-Have-Two-New-Enemies”, scenario the US faces today. Perhaps a look back over our shoulder, examining cause and effect relationships along the road is in order.

Cause and Effect Relationships in the Middle East

Creates a Dangerous Outgrowth of Technology in the Military Industrial Complex and Then Exports It for Profit

The United States remains the leading arms exporter increasing sales by 23 percent, with the country’s share of the global arms trade at 31 percent.

Record US Weapons Sales to Foreign Countries – $1.6 Billion in Lockheed Martin Missiles Alone

Very smart people in the Pentagon believed that connecting sensitive networks, expensive equipment, and powerful weapons to the open Internet was a swell idea.

This ubiquitous connectivity among devices and objects — what we now call the “Internet of Things” — would allow them to collect performance data to help design new weapons, monitor equipment remotely, and realize myriad other benefits. The risks were less assiduously cataloged.

That strategy has spread huge vulnerabilities across the Defense Department, its networks, and much of what the defense industry has spent the last several decades creating.

The Pentagon Hooked Everything to the Internet

Defies Financial Control With Dire Consequences for the Nation’s Economic Future

A law passed in 1994 initially set the deadline for 1997, but the Pentagon’s books were in such disarray that it blew past that date. Then, in 2010, Congress told the Pentagon to comply by 2017.

The next year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged that the department would by 2014 be ready for a partial account of its finances – a much less detailed accounting than requested of the military services — but the department missed that deadline too.

Pentagon Remains Stubbornly Unable To Account for Its Billions

The Above Machine  Cannot and Will Not Continue.

The debt is too great a burden for generations of tax payers.

It is too risky in terms of technology that has fallen fall into enemy hands, either through the “Internet of Things” or by blunders in export management. 


It will be replaced by domestic and foreign relations programs that emphasize global human progress and economic development in lieu of threats.  The result will rely on uplifting, cooperative efforts among nations in lieu of killing. 


The globe has become too small to operate the Military Industrial Machine and the resources that have fueled it will be redirected. 


There simply is no other way. 

The change will be brought about in the following manner:


Facing geopolitical and economic realities, stopping war interventions and investing in relationships within and without our country by offering mutual collaboration.


Ceasing to dwell on threat and building long term infrastructure, education and international development.  The threats will melt away. 


Investing for the long term at the stock holder, company and  national levels based on a strategy dealing with both present day and long term challenges in education, communication and society value transitions.


Electing a Congress and an Administration that knows how to strike a balance between long and short term actions. Letting them know what we think regularly by communicating with them. 


Knowing that most cultures and societies in upheaval today are watching our national model and choosing whether to support it, ignore it or attack it.


The Dire Necessity for U.S. Long Term Strategic Vision 

https://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2015/11/united-states-warfare-realities-today.html

“ABOUT THE AUTHOR”

Ken Portrait - Copy (2)

KEN LARSON is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran,  retired from 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex.  Ken worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. 

He is a volunteer Micro Mentor Counselor, specializing in Small, Veteran-owned, Minority-Owned and Woman-Owned Businesses beginning work for the Federal Government. Micro Mentor is a non-profit organization offering free assistance to small business in business planning, operations, marketing and other aspects of starting and successfully operating a small enterprise.  He can be reached at:  Ken at Micro Mentor

Pentagon Acknowledges U.S. Contractor Presence In Syria For First Time

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Contractors in Iraq and Syria

Image:  “Defense One”

“AL MONITOR”

“The US military is using more than 5,500 contractors in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon revealed in a quarterly report this week that acknowledges the use of contractors in the Syrian war zone for the first time.

The latest figures from US Central Command indicate that 5,508 US and foreign contractors are working alongside US troops in the two combat zones.”

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“That’s an increase of 581, or 12%, over January’s numbers, which did not include Syria. About half of the contractors are US citizens, while the rest are local or third-country hires.

The disclosure comes as President Donald Trump has signaled his desire to pull US troops out of Syria “very soon” after the end of the counter-IS mission. The role of contractors in Syria is also under increasing scrutiny after hundreds of Russian contractors died in a battle with US troops and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the oil-rich Deir ez-Zor province, as CIA Director and Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo publicly confirmed in his Senate confirmation hearing April 12.

Unlike the Russians, however, the US contractors are mostly focused on supporting the 2,000 US troops in Syria by delivering hot meals, gasoline and other supplies. More than 30% of them support logistics and maintenance, according to the quarterly Pentagon report, and another 27% help with support and construction of US military outposts in the region.

“It’s not the Russian contractor role in Syria, which is … deploying tactical military units of squad company size,” said Peter Singer, a senior fellow and strategist at the New America think tank in Washington. “It’s the old stuff that Halliburton used to do.”

More than 400 “security” contractors are also involved in the fight in both countries, but “you’re not seeing the 163rd private US military group invading a city in Syria,” Singer said. Russian military contractors are also helping to protect oil fields across the country, protecting an industry that represented a quarter of Syria’s government revenue in 2010.

Though previous Defense Department personnel reports in the region hadn’t mentioned a Pentagon contractor presence in Syria, the US Department of Labor acknowledged in a report last year that two contractors were killed and six injured in fiscal year 2017. The Pentagon numbers don’t represent contractors working for other US agencies, such as the State Department, which assists with demining.

The Pentagon’s admission comes after an awkward back-and-forth between Trump and his top military and diplomatic advisers at a National Security Council meeting last week. While the president wants to declare victory on IS and pull out, the Pentagon has asked the commander-in-chief to leave US forces in Syria to prevent insurgent cells from regrouping along Syria’s border with Iraq.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, said at a public event last week, “The hard part is in front of us” in the war-torn country. Less than a mile away at the White House, Trump appeared to contradict US pledges to stay in the Syria fight at an open Cabinet meeting after long expressing his frustration over US military spending in the Middle East. The White House also recently announced a $200 million cut in funds earmarked for stabilizing Syria.

Despite their nonkinetic role, some experts say contractors face many of the same dangers as the US troops and Syrian forces who battled Russian mercenaries in February. With IS on the run and multiple US antagonists ready to push out the United States and its allies, civilian personnel risk getting caught in the crossfire.

“I would give America a six-month honeymoon here,” said Joshua Landis, the director of the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies. “Turkey, Syria and Iran are just sitting there, waiting to stick shivs in us.”

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/04/pentagon-acknowledge-us-contractor-presence-syria-iraq.html

 

 

 

 

What Was the Vietnam War About?

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Vietnam All About

A group of South Vietnamese army soldiers and an American soldier with two captured Vietcong suspects, in Plaines des Joncs, South Vietnam. Credit Tim Page/Corbis, via Getty Images

“THE NEW YORK TIMES”

“If we continue to excuse American conduct in Vietnam as a well-intentioned, if tragic, intervention rather than a purposeful assertion of imperial power, we are less likely to challenge current war managers who have again mired us in apparently endless wars based on false or deeply misleading pretexts. 

Just as in the Vietnam era, American leaders have ordered troops to distant lands based on boundless abstractions (“the global war on terror” instead of the global threat of “international Communism”).

And once again, their mission is to prop up governments that demonstrate no capacity to gain the necessary support of their people.”


“Was America’s war in Vietnam a noble struggle against Communist aggression, a tragic intervention in a civil conflict, or an imperialist counterrevolution to crush a movement of national liberation? Those competing interpretations ignited fiery debates in the 1960s and remain unresolved today. How we name and define this most controversial of American wars is not a narrow scholarly exercise, but profoundly shapes public memory of its meaning and ongoing significance to American national identity and foreign policy.

During the war years, America’s leaders insisted that military force was necessary to defend a sovereign nation — South Vietnam — from external Communist aggression. As President Lyndon B. Johnson put it in 1965, “The first reality is that North Vietnam has attacked the independent nation of South Vietnam. Its object is total conquest.”

Even more disturbing, Johnson quickly added (following a script written by his predecessors Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy), the Communists in Vietnam were supported and guided by the Soviet Union and China. Therefore, the war in South Vietnam was not an isolated, local conflict, irrelevant to American national security, but rather one that was inseparable from the nation’s highest priority — the Cold War struggle to contain Communism around the globe. Further raising the stakes, policymakers warned that if South Vietnam fell to Communism, neighboring countries would inevitably fall in turn, one after another, like a row of dominoes.

Three decades later, Robert McNamara, a key architect of the Vietnam War who served as defense secretary for both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, renounced those wartime claims — the very ones he and others had invoked to justify the war. In two books, “In Retrospect” (1995) and “Argument Without End” (2000), McNamara conceded that the United States had been “terribly wrong” to intervene in Vietnam. He attributed the failure to a lack of knowledge and judgment. If only he had understood the fervor of Vietnamese nationalism, he wrote, if only he had known that Hanoi was not the pawn of Beijing or Moscow, if only he had realized that the domino theory was wrong, he might have persuaded his presidential bosses to withdraw from Vietnam. Millions of lives would have been saved. If only.

In fact, however, in the 1960s, when McNamara advocated massive military escalation in Vietnam, he simply rejected or ignored any evidence that contradicted Cold War orthodoxy. It’s not as if contrary views were unavailable. In the work of the scholar-journalist Bernard Fall, the pages of I. F. Stone’s Weekly, speeches at university teach-ins and antiwar rallies and countless other venues, critics pointed out that after World War II the United States made a clear choice to support the French effort to re-establish its colonial rule in Indochina, and eventually assumed the bulk of France’s cost for the first Indochina War. It should have been no surprise, therefore, that Vietnamese revolutionaries perceived the United States as a neocolonial power when it committed its own military forces in the next war.

Moreover, critics argued, the primary roots of opposition to the American-backed government in Saigon were indigenous and deep rooted, not just in North Vietnam, but throughout the South.

Indeed, from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s the bulk of Communist-led fighting was carried out by southern guerrillas of the National Liberation Front, known to its enemies as the Vietcong. Only after the war was well underway did large units from North Vietnam arrive on the southern front. Antiwar opponents also challenged the claim that South Vietnam was an “independent nation” established by the Geneva Accords of 1954. Those agreements called for a temporarypartition of Vietnam to be shortly followed by a nationwide election to choose a single leader for a unified Vietnam. When it became clear to both Saigon and Washington that the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh would be the overwhelming victor, the South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem, with American support, decided to cancel the election.

Thus began a two-decade failed effort to build a permanent country called “South Vietnam.” The government in Saigon was never a malleable puppet of the United States, but it was nonetheless wholly dependent on American military and economic support to survive against its enemies, including many non-Communist parties and factions in the South.

Armed with these criticisms, many opponents of American policy in the 1960s described Vietnam as a civil war — not like the relatively clear-cut North-South division of the American Civil War, but a nationwide struggle of Communist-led forces of the South and North against the American-backed government in the South. By 1966, this analysis was even embraced by some mainstream politicians, including Senator William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, who ran as an antiwar presidential candidate in 1968. Both men called attention to the “South Vietnamese civil war” to emphasize the strength of the southern insurgency and the failure of the Saigon government to gain the broad support of its own people.

By 1972, the idea that Vietnam posed a threat to Cold War America was so discredited, it sometimes sounded as if America’s only remaining war aim was to get back its P.O.W.s (President Richard Nixon bizarrely claimed that Hanoi was using them as “negotiating pawns”). Even more mind-boggling were Nixon’s historic 1972 trips to Beijing and Moscow. Many Americans wondered how Nixon could offer toasts of peace to Mao Zedong and Leonid Brezhnev while still waging war in Vietnam. As the journalist Jonathan Schell put it, “If these great powers were not, after all, the true foe,” then the war in Vietnam “really was a civil war in a small country, as its opponents had always said, and the United States had no business taking part in it.”

But alongside the “civil war” interpretation, a more radical critique developed — the view that America’s enemy in Vietnam was engaged in a long-term war for national liberation and independence, first from the French and then the United States. According to this position, the war was best understood not as a Cold War struggle between East and West, or a Vietnamese civil war, but as an anticolonial struggle, similar to dozens of others that erupted throughout the Third World in the wake of World War II. When the French were defeated by Vietnamese revolutionaries (despite enormous American support), the United States stepped in directly to wage a counterrevolutionary war against an enemy determined to achieve full and final independence from foreign control.

This interpretation was shared by many on the antiwar left, including Daniel Ellsberg, the once-hawkish defense analyst who turned so strongly against the war that he was willing to sabotage his career by making public 7,000 pages of classified documents about the history of the Vietnam War, the so-called Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg made his argument most succinctly in the 1974 documentary “Hearts and Minds.”

“The name for a conflict in which you are opposing a revolution is counterrevolution,” he said. “A war in which one side is entirely financed and equipped and supported by foreigners is not a civil war.” The question used to be, he added, “might it be possible that we were on the wrong side in the Vietnamese war. We weren’t on the wrong side; we are the wrong side.”

In the decades since 1975, all three major interpretations have persisted. Some writers and historians have embraced President Ronald Reagan’s view that the war was a “noble cause” that might have been won. That position has failed to persuade most specialists in the field, in large part because it greatly exaggerates the military and political virtues and success of the United States and the government of South Vietnam. It also falls short because it depends on counterfactual claims that victory would have been achieved if only the United States had extended its support for Diem (instead of greenlighting his overthrow), or tried a different military strategy, or done a better job winning hearts and minds. However, the war as it was actually conducted by the United States and its allies was a disaster by every measure.

In recent decades, a number of historians — particularly younger scholars trained in Vietnamese and other languages — have developed various versions of the civil war interpretation. Some of them view the period after the French defeat in 1954 as “post-colonial,” a time in which long-brewing internal conflicts between competing versions of Vietnamese nationalism came to a head. As the historian Jessica Chapman of Williams College puts it, “The Vietnam War was, at its core, a civil war greatly exacerbated by foreign intervention.” Others have described it as a civil war that became “internationalized.”

While these scholars have greatly enhanced our knowledge of the complexity and conflict in Vietnamese history, politics and culture, they don’t, in my view, assign enough responsibility to the United States for causing and expanding the war as a neocolonial power.

Let’s try a thought experiment. What if our own Civil War bore some resemblance to the Vietnamese “civil war”? For starters, we would have to imagine that in 1860 a global superpower — say Britain — had strongly promoted Southern secession, provided virtually all of the funding for the ensuing war and dedicated its vast military to the battle. We must also imagine that in every Southern state, local, pro-Union forces took up arms against the Confederacy. Despite enormous British support, Union forces prevailed. What would Americans call such a war? Most, I think, would remember it as the Second War of Independence. Perhaps African-Americans would call it the First War of Liberation. Only former Confederates and the British might recall it as a “civil war.”

I would reverse Chapman’s formula and say that the Vietnam War was, at its core, an American war that exacerbated Vietnamese divisions and internationalized the conflict. It is true, of course, that many Vietnamese opposed the Communist path to national liberation, but no other nationalist party or faction proved capable of gaining enough support to hold power. Without American intervention, it is hard to imagine that South Vietnam would have come into being or, if it did, that it would have endured for long.

Moreover, no other foreign nation deployed millions of troops to South Vietnam (although the United States did pressure or pay a handful of other nations, Australia and South Korea most notably, to send smaller military forces). And no other foreign nation or opponent dropped bombs (eight million tons!) on South and North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The introduction of that staggering lethality was the primary driver of a war that cost three million lives, half of them civilians.

Once again, the United States has waged brutal counterinsurgencies guaranteed to maim, kill or displace countless civilians. It has exacerbated international violence and provoked violent retaliation.

Our leaders, then and now, have insisted that the United States is “the greatest force for good in the world” that wants nothing for itself, only to defeat “terror” and bring peace, stability and self-determination to other lands. The evidence does not support such a claim. We need a new, cleareyed vision of our global conduct. A more critical appraisal of the past is one place to start.”

“Drone Warrior” – A Stunning First Hand Memoir

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Amazon.com
GQ.com

After a careful review by the Intelligence Community for Publication, Drone Warrior has performed a stunning service, giving the reader a gut level feel for the U.S. War on Terror from a decorated soldier’s perspective. 

Those of us who served in Vietnam and similar conflicts since can totally relate to this masterpiece of  honesty.  

Brett Velicovich pulls no punches. The mental stress, teamwork, tragedy and after effects in this modern, technological killing process can be felt with every line.  The impact on the man himself and on those with whom he worked has not been spared in its detail and its effects. 

Having left the service, Brett is now involved in harnessing and controlling the technology for peaceful purposes like wildlife preservation and management.  Those of us who have made similar transitions applaud, commend and recommend the book and the man. 

Read it to become informed and consider the billions we are spending on this warfare today as well as the impact on our youth and our future. 

Drone Warrior

Confronting America’s Misguided Drone Program

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Misguided Drone Program

Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

“THE NATIONAL INTEREST” By

“American citizens deserve to be protected and defended by our government, and that must never change.

But when the instrument that government and military leaders use to accomplish that goal instead causes serious emotional damage to the citizens operating the equipment, kills and alienates those we wish to protect overseas, and perversely creates more enemy fighters than it ever removes from the battlefield, dramatic changes are required.”


“The use of armed drone warfare by the United States has proliferated since 9/11. Advocates of the program say it is essential to American national security. These claims are far from convincing—more on that below. What gets very little examination one way or the other, however, is the effect these operations have on the U.S. personnel that serve within the drone-warfare system, and virtually none on the so-called “collateral damage” inflicted on innocents by errant or mistaken strikes.

That begins to change on Monday night, with the airing on PBS of National Bird, winner of the 2017 Ridenhour Documentary Film Award, a film that beautifully—and hauntingly—illuminates both.

Longtime investigative journalist and filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck was doing research on the drone program in 2013. “I had seen lots of commentary and opinion in media on the subject,” Kennebeck told me in a recent interview, “but couldn’t find a lot of verifiable facts or reactions from people directly involved.” The more she discovered, the more fascinating she found the subject matter, and the greater her interest in broadening the scope of the project. There came a key moment, however, when she realized the project deserved to be more than simply an opinion article.

One of the subjects of the film, Heather (only first names are used in the documentary), had recently left the Air Force after serving as an intelligence analyst in the drone program. “When I met Heather the first time she told me not only had she’d struggled with suicide because of all she had seen and experienced, three of her former Air Force colleagues from the program have already taken their own lives. At that point I knew I had to do a film,” Kennebeck explained.

As the documentary details, Heather struggled mightily after she left the Air Force because of the role she played in the deaths of numerous people that were killed in drone strikes. Very often, she explained, when targets were killed with the missile, many people around them were obliterated, body parts flying in all directions. The film also featured the experiences of two other American operators, Daniel and Lisa, who suffered trauma similar to Heather.

One of the reasons Kennebeck produced this film was to shine a light on aspects of the program that get little to no public exposure. “The public needs to understand how many people are being killed,” she said, “what countries drones are being operated in, and ultimately there needs to be more regulation because the technology has outpaced our legal and moral frameworks. Policy and rules need to catch up.”

The drone program’s efficacy in attaining U.S. security objectives desperately needs to be assessed. Advocates of drone warfare virtually dismiss the problems without examination, and instead focus on what they cite as the compelling justification. A Brookings report in defense of drone warfare argued that the United States “cannot tolerate terrorist safe havens in remote parts of Pakistan and elsewhere, and drones offer a comparatively low-risk way of targeting these areas.” Like other reports advocating the use of drones, the Brookings study cites the body count as evidence of success.

“U.S. drones have killed an estimated 3,300 al Qaeda, Taliban, and other jihadist operatives in Pakistan and Yemen,” the report’s authors claim. What is not addressed, however, is the extent to which these operations reduce terrorist threats to the United States. By any rational assessment, the terrorist threat has continued to dramatically increase—not decline—as the use of drones has risen. If more than three thousand Al Qaeda terrorists had been killed, we should have seen a serious degradation in their capability and a corresponding increase in our security. Instead, Dr. Michael Shank, professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, has considerable experience on the ground in the locations where many drone strikes occur, and provides a sobering on-the-ground perspective.

“Working in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, it’s clear that drones are creating more enemies than the U.S. claims to ever kill,” Dr. Shank wrote in a recent email message. “Drones are quickly turning the general population – many of whom the U.S. would classify as the ‘good guys’ – against America.”

The United States generally considers its enemy population to be a finite number of bad people that can be eliminated, he explained, but such thinking exposes a limited understanding of physics (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) and psychology. “For every so-called ‘bad guy’ killed by a drone strike,” Dr. Shank wrote, “there will be another person who witnessed that strike and who is motivated to assume the newly dead adversary’s antagonism.”

National Bird provides a moving example of how American drones impact those we otherwise seek to defend. In 2010, the United States admitted it accidentally struck a three-vehicle convoy in Afghanistan with Hellfire missiles and rockets that it mistakenly thought was affiliated with the Taliban. Instead, the vehicles contained mostly members of an extended family—twenty-three of whom were killed in the attack, including a number of children—that had no relation to the insurgency. There is a telling moment in the film when the surviving members are sitting outside, telling the story of that day, when helicopters happen to fly overhead. Their faces immediately register palpable fear as they relive that harrowing moment.”

National Bird premieres on Independent Lens Monday, May 1, 2017, 10:00-11:30 PM ET (check local listings) on PBS.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments.

Image: An MQ-9 Reaper flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-skeptics/confronting-americas-misguided-drone-program-20428?page=2&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%204.02.2017&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief